Lake Gregory and Lake Hemet Peak

Lake Hemet Campgrounds (11/7/14) Jonathan Patterson

Lake Hemet Campgrounds (11/7/14) Jonathan Patterson

Color spotters Tim Colvin and Jonathan Patterson sent these photos of Southern California’s Lakes Gregory and Hemet, which are now both peaking.

Lake Gregory (11/7/14) Tim Colvin

Lake Gregory (11/7/14) Tim Colvin

Lake Gregory (Peak 75-100%) – This is one of the last resort areas of the San Bernardino Mountains to peak; color should remain good through the coming week. GO NOW!

Lake Hemet Campgrounds (11/7/14) Jonathan Patterson

Lake Hemet Campgrounds (11/7/14) Jonathan Patterson

Lake Hemet Campgrounds (11/7/14) Jonathan Patterson

Lake Hemet Campgrounds (11/7/14) Jonathan Patterson

Lake Hemet (Peak 75-100%) – Large cottonwood provide a golden canopy to the campgrounds at Lake Hemet in the San Jacinto Mountains, providing for a colorful place to camp while out color spotting. Weather permitting, peak should last for two weeks. GO NOW!

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The Damaging Effect of Drought on Beauty

Mt. Laguna Stilllife (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Mt. Laguna Still life (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Modern Hiker correspondent, hiker and color spotter Scott Turner spent yesterday afternoon at Mt. Laguna in eastern San Diego County and provides these compelling images of the effect of drought on trees that live at the edge of a desert.

Black Oak (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Black Oak (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Black Oak (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Black Oak (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Mt. Laguna (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Mt. Laguna (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Black oak there, which would normally be a vivid mix of green, lime, yellow, orange, gold and buff are, sadly, a dull beige. Scott said the effect of drought on the forests of Mt. Laguna are palpable.  Some trees appear to have lost the majority of their leaves, though what remains is still partially green.

Scott found it hard to assess the change, because so much has dropped, though he classifies Mt. Laguna as near peak, but nothing like the vibrant show seen last autumn.  He notes that the oaks were hit hard by bark beetles with a lot of them dying.

Scott plans to hike and photograph Mt. Palomar on Friday. On his last trip, he noted that the oaks there appeared to be healthier, but then they live at an elevation that is 1,000′ lower. That likely means Palomar’s peak is two weeks away.

On a separate Southern California note, I met with Jonathan Patterson of Lake Hemet yesterday.  Jonathan said the color is beginning to look beautiful around the lake.  He was reluctant to classify it as near peak, though from other reports made directly to me by John Koeberer who’d been there this weekend, the San Jacinto Mountains are a definite GO NOW!  Jonathan said Idyllwild has been peaking for a week.  Our recommendation is head up to the San Jacintos, camp at Lake Hemet in the middle of the color and take side trips to Idyllwild and Mountain Center.  If you get great photos of the San Jacintos, email them to us and we’ll post.

Mt. Laguna (Near Peak – 50 – 75%) – Drought and bark beetles have damaged the trees.  The color is not the brilliance it had last autumn.  Do a rain dance for Eastern San Diego County.

Idyllwild (Peak – 75 – 100%) – Beautiful color in and around Idyllwild is nearly past peak. GO NOW!

Lake Hemet (Near Peak – 50 – 75%) – Camp beside the lake surrounded by intense fall color.  Very few people and developing color that should be good for the next couple of weeks (weather permitting).  Just say no to Santa Anas! GO NOW!


Color Drops Below a Mile in the San Jacintos

Color spotter Jim Beau was in Idyllwild on Friday and reported, “It looks like this might be the last weekend of fall color in Southern California’s mountains (above a mile high).  Driving southbound from I-10 on Hwy 243, the oaks were pretty much done for the year.   

“On Thanksgiving weekend last year, we hit Idyllwild at peak fall color.  In comparison, this year was a bit of a disappointment.   Since a weak winter storm has moved into the area this weekend, it was pretty dreary up there, yesterday.  And, I don’t expect what little is left to last into next weekend.  So, it looks like it’s time to head to the lower elevations for fall color in Southern California.” 

Past Peak – Idyllwild – Black oaks  are now cloaked only in rusty brown leaves.

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – Mountain Center/Lake Hemet (4,500′) – Heading west on Hwy 74 near Mountain Center, there is a nice, mile-long section of oaks and a few cottonwoods at peak.

GO NOW! – 50 – 75% – Hwy 74 (below 4,000′) – Heading west toward Hemet, the cottonwoods and sycamores were just starting to turn yellow and chartreuse.


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Temecula/Mt. Laguna/Lake Hemet – Vintage Color

Temecula Wine Country (10/27/13) Brian Reilly

Temecula Wine Country (10/27/13) Brian Reilly

Color spotter Brian Reilly took these beautiful images at Thornton Winery on the Rancho California Road in Temecula.  This Southern California wine growing region is showing about 50% color.

Old vines make great wine, Temecula (10/27/13) Brian Reilly

Old vines make great wine, Temecula (10/27/13) Brian Reilly

Dessicated grapes, beyond late harvest, Temecula (10/27/13) Brian Reilly

Desicated grapes, beyond late harvest; Temecula (10/27/13) Brian Reilly

30 – 50% – Temecula Wine Country – The vineyards are getting close to peaking and considering the color now visible, we’d have no problem suggesting you GO NOW!, though we expect the color to continue to develop for the next couple of weeks.

San Diego County

So. Calif. color spotter Son H Nguyen reports, “There is not much in Julian, right now,” aside from exotic “Chinese pistache starting to turn in town. There is not much on Pine Hill and it”s around 30-50%.  However, Mt. Laguna is blazing, right now. So many black oak trees, the whole area is near peak.”

30 – 50% – Julian – Best at Pine Hill.

Oaks, Mt Laguna (10/27/13) Son H Nguyen

Black oaks, Mt Laguna (10/27/13) Son H Nguyen

Black oaks, Mt Laguna (10/27/13) Son H Nguyen

Black oaks, Mt Laguna (10/27/13) Son H Nguyen

Black Oak, Mt Laguna (10/27/13) Son H Nguyen

Black oak, Mt Laguna (10/27/13) Son H Nguyen

GO NOW! 75 – 100% – Mt. Laguna – Full peak at oak woodlands on Mt. Laguna in eastern San Diego County.

GO NOW! 50 – 75% – San Jacinto Mountains – Color spotter Anissa Granados from Lake Hemet Campgrounds sends this photo of cottonwood approaching peak at Lake Hemet.  Anissa says the trees ringing the lake and campgrounds provide a lovely setting to be surrounded by fall color.

Lake Hemet Campgrounds (10/29/13) Anissa Granados

Lake Hemet Campgrounds (10/29/13) Anissa Granados

Color Moves to the Mid Elevations

Napa Valley (file photo) John Poimiroo

Fall color has now descended to the mid elevations throughout California, with peak color occurring in the vineyards, the Sierra foothills, the San Jacinto Mountains in Southern California and on Hwy 299 between Redding and Weaverville.

Color is peaking in urban forests and orchards of the Sacramento Valley.  With an approaching storm, leaf peepers and photographers are advised to go now to peaking areas, before the leaves are further denuded from branches.

Eastern Sierra

75 – 100% – Owens Valley – The Owens Valley remains beautiful with long-lasting spots of bright color along US 395 in Bishop and Independence.

75 – 100% – Rock Creek – First to peak and last to peak in the Eastern Sierra, Rock Creek continues to have areas of lovely color at its lowest elevations.

Past Peak – June Lake – Although there are small pockets of nice  color found along the June Lake Loop, this area is now mostly past peak.

High Sierra

Past Peak – All elevations above 5,000′ are now past peak.

Past Peak – Yosemite Valley – The combination of snow on fall color was gorgeous in Yosemite Valley this past weekend, but this likely was the last spurt of leaf peeping to be seen in the national park.

Gold Country

75 – 100% – Color has descended along the Mother Lode with beautiful orange and yellow maples and oaks showing from the 2,000 to 4,000′ elevations.

Central Valley

75 – 100% – The urban forests in Sacramento, Modesto and  cities of the northern Central Valley have been peaking for the past two weeks with beautiful color reported.  Sacramento is a veritable jewel box of brilliant reds, auburns, oranges, yellows and chartreuse.  Recent storms have affected some trees, though there’s still a lots and lots of color to be seen.   Go Now!

North Coast

75 – 100% – Napa and Sonoma County Vineyards – As has been happening for near a  month, the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma Counties have been peaking, with vineyards showing ruby, orange, yellow and lime by variety.  The wine country doesn’t change all at once, it shows by plot, though lots of great color remains.  Go Now!

Southern California

75 – 100% – San Jacinto Mountains – Dazzling displays of yellow and orange have been seen among the maple and oaks of the San Jacinto Mountains near Lake Hemet, Mountain Center and Idyllwild.  Go Now!

Veteran’s Day Glory at Lake Hemet

Lake Hemet Campgrounds (11/11/12) Todd Stepien

Picknicking at Lake Hemet (11/11/12) Todd Stepien

75 – 100% – Lake Hemet, San Jacinto Mountains – A glorious day for a picnic is Veteran’s Day, and on that day, Todd Stepien of Lake Hemet Campgrounds sends these photos of gold dressing the shoreline of the lake, near Mountain Center in the San Jacinto Mountains.  There’s still time to head out today, camp tonight and spend the Monday holiday in the mountains, surrounded by “old glory.”

San Jacinto Mountains – Go Now!

Cottonwood, Lake Hemet Campgrounds (10/31/12) Todd Stepien

75 – 100% – San Jacinto Mountains – Todd Stepien, of the Lake Hemet Campgrounds in the San Jacinto Mountains (Southern California) reports cottonwood glowing bright yellow.  Other species to be seen in the San Jacintos are California black oak, which display large orange leaves set against black branches.  Visit for directions and information on camping in the area.

Los Angeles County

15 – 30% – LA County Arboretum – Frank McDonough reports color at the arboretum is looking about the same as reported last week, with some species showing color, but at the arboretum’s sister garden, Descanso Gardens, located in somewhat cooler La Canada, more color is appearing among liquidambars and one very red and very small Rhus bush.

Descanso Gardens (11/1/12) Frank McDonough